Experimental research

We enable, conduct and support experimental research to build the evidence base

Why it matters?

There is a lack of robust evidence about the effectiveness of policy interventions across research, innovation and business policy. We need to increase the production of policy relevant and actionable evidence so that resources can be utilised in the most effective way.

Experimental research is not merely an input to decision making, but something that is derived from policy action. However, there are several barriers to undertaking experiments within this policy setting, and as result experimental research has been underutilised in this field. Overcoming these barriers requires a combination of good ideas, effective matching of researchers and implementing partners, specialist expertise, balancing the demands of research and policy and sufficient funding, among others. 

Our work at IGL aims to tackle these constraints by enabling, conducting and supporting experimental research that pushes forward the knowledge frontier in the field and creates actionable insights for policy makers.

Our work

Through our work we aim to increase the quantity and quality of experimental research in this field, generating evidence that helps scale up effective programmes and leads to more impactful policies. 

We conduct experimental research in collaboration with our government partners and the research community. For instance, we helped Innovate UK to set up its first RCT, testing the impact of innovation vouchers, and are collaborating with the European Commission to develop three citizen-engagement experiments to understand how best to engage citizens in the design and delivery of mission-oriented projects. 

IGL has helped to build, support and bring together the emerging research community in this field. The IGL Research Network includes more than 100 experimental researchers from around the world. Our research meetings and PhD workshops create opportunities for learning and feedback, and more recently we’ve joined up with the Conference on Field Experiments in Strategy (CFXS) to continue this work. 

Making funding available for experimental research has also been a priority. In 2013 we launched the IGL Grants Programme in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Argidius. It was the first funding programme specifically focused on RCTs in this field, supporting 42 trials with funding and advice. The IGL Grants Programme enabled many researchers to run their first RCTs, showcased to governments the feasibility and potential of trials in this space, and made crucial contributions to the evidence base. The experience paved the way for the experimentation funds that the UK government and the European Commission launched in collaboration with IGL, which supported a total of 45 RCTs and small-scale pilots aimed at improving productivity and innovation among small and medium-sized businesses.

Through our thematic programmes we are also creating opportunities for experimental research addressing key policy challenges. For instance, we have created different “ideas banks” showcasing what experiments might be feasible and valuable, such as the Experimental Research Funder’s Handbook

We’ve helped link researchers with practitioners and policymakers who can put research findings into use and identify opportunities for further experimentation, and will continue exploring different ways to facilitate matchmaking and collaboration between both communities.   

We also seek to make learning about implementing RCTs widely available, and want to make experimental evidence more available and used, including through our Trials Database, guides, blogs and working papers series.

Key resources